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Dishes to die for

http://www.chinese.cn 10:26, October 18, 2010 Xinhua News Agency

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Dishes to die for
Shen Mingjie has become one of the most popular chefs in Chengdu, Sichuan province, with a repertoire of some 30 dishes inspired by stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

A Chengdu restaurant celebrates ancient China's epic Battle of Red Cliffs in a most ingenious way.

Piles of stones and grass appear on the dinner table, a row of yellow croakers sitting among them. A chef pours Chinese rice wine on the fish and sets them alight briefly. Their skins turn crispy, leaving the insides soft and smooth.

This is just one representation of the dinner version of the battle presented on screen by John Woo in the 2008 blockbuster Red Cliff.

The stones stand for the famous Red Cliffs, and the croakers, for warlord Cao Cao's warships that bond together in the Battle of Red Cliffs, the decisive campaign that laid the foundations of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280).

Shrimps can replace the croakers if diners so desire, says Shen Mingjie, creator of the dish and executive chef of the Sangu Yuan restaurant in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

"It took me some three nerve-racking months to come up with the dishes. Even now, I am not very satisfied with them. I feel the presentation should be more natural," says Shen, one of the city's most popular chefs.

"The Battle of Red Cliffs", like the other distinctive dishes in Shen's "Three Kingdoms" offering, have all been inspired by the ancient classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Shen says while he has always been fascinated by Romance of the Three Kingdoms picture books, it was not until six years ago that he discovered he could re-create some of the historical events in the kitchen.

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